Treating TMJ issues: asymmetries in the rest of the body

Jaw pain is rarely entirely in the jaw!

If you were building a tower, and one of the floors wasn’t level, it would affect the floors above it — unless you somehow compensated.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is kind of like that, only it’s because it settled unevenly on the ground beneath it. As they built it over the years, it would sink, stabilize, sink more…

The structure of the body is like that too — even when standing on level solid ground.

Because the jaw is near the top of the skeleton, imbalances below can affect the alignment and functionality of the temporomandibular joints (TMJs).

The primary cause of most jaw pain is asymmetrical hypertonicity. Thanks, TMJ Mastery teacher John Corry! That means that some of the muscles that affect the jaw are tighter than others.

I include a basic structural evaluation in my free TMJ consultations. It’s pretty cursory. I’m just looking for asymmetries. Here’s how I do it.

The patient stands with their shoes off.

I feel the space under theIr arches and check whether their feet (or one foot) are pronating or supinating.

Checking the points on the tops of the hips to see if they’re level comes next.

I ask about scoliosis if it’s not already apparent. Same with pelvic floor issues.

Then I check their shoulders to see if they’re level.

I look at the patient from each side to see if they have a pelvic tilt toward the front or the back and view their spinal curves.

When they are lying on my massage table, I can check for a leg length discrepancy with their legs flat, and then with feet flat/knees bent. I can also see whether their feet point up symmetrically.

I place the pads of my fingers over their TMJs right in front of their ears and ask them to open and close repeatedly.

Usually one side moves first.

Often one side feels closer to the ear than the other.

Sometimes one side sticks out more than the other.

Try it yourself. What do you notice?

None of this is super precise. I’m just getting a basic read on asymmetries in the structure of the patient that may affect the jaw.

Have you noticed that you have a dominant side? A side that feels stronger than the other?

Have you ever had a foot, ankle, leg, or hip injury? Can you still tell the difference between the injured side and the uninjured one?

Does your physical activity work your body evenly, left and right sides, front and back, upper, lower?

Do you have a full range of movement in your joints?

How’s your posture?

How about your sleep posture?

It’s not my main business to start correcting these asymmetries (except in the upper body/jaw when I can). Becoming more symmetrical can take a while, years in some cases, so I consider it a long-term project for people with jaw pain to find relief, as well as more ease and functionality in their bodies.

Symmetry is also an ideal, like perfection. Most of us are doing the best we can. There’s probably always going to be some asymmetry in the body, but we can definitely address the most dysfunctional areas.

The functional movement screen is a set of 7 movements you do with a trainer, who scores you and can prescribe workouts that strengthen your weaknesses. FMS was developed to identify athletes who were prone to injury before they got injured. It can work for ordinary people too.

Here’s a link to view the screening movements. Find a trainer on your own.

Practices of non-linear movement can help if done regularly over a long period. These movements work both sides of the body. They increase flexibility and balance and fluidity. And they are fun! Examples:

  • yoga, especially if it’s alignment-oriented like Iyengar and Anusara
  • qi gong
  • tai chi
  • Gyrokinesis
  • martial arts
  • dance, especially free-form dancing like ecstatic dance

The type of bodywork that addresses asymmetries is called structural bodywork. There are two main schools of training: Rolfing Structural Integration and Anatomy Trains Structural Integration. Neuromuscular therapy also assesses posture and gait pattern and can address imbalances.

There are a lot of tools that you can use on yourself to improve posture and sleep posture, release muscle tension, help remove strain from the neck and the sacrum. Some of them are included in this post on self-care tools.

Update from MaryAnn

It’s been a while. A long strange while.

I’m staying safe, going out only for walks and groceries masked.

I hope and pray that you are well too.

Some updates, in lieu of a summer newsletter:

HeartMath is a great program that focuses on stress reduction. It’s been around for decades. You use a sensor that monitors your heart rate variability, which indicates how coherently (healthy) your body-mind system is functioning, which you can see on the companion Inner Balance app.

You can learn some simple techniques to increase coherence and reduce stress. With the sensor, you get accurate feedback so that with practice, you can learn the “sensory signature” of the state of coherence and induce it in yourself without the sensor when needed.

So… it’s like a brief meditation on the fly, switching from stressed to calm and together — who couldn’t use more of that?

Here’s more about it. If you’re interested, please call me at 512-507-4184. As a trainer, I can get you 25% off on a sensor and help you get started.

Once again, I’ve changed the name of my phone sessions/distance healing. I’m calling it Conversational Self-Healing, which more accurately reflects what happens and how it works.

I do ask you if you’d like me to place my “energy hands” around the area where you are experiencing some discomfort. I feel strong energy in my hands, and so far, every receiver has been able to discern a change in sensation in that area.

Mostly what we do is tune into your sensations, which are signals, and we listen to them deeply, which allows them to transform. This is how the body communicates and how we hold a conversation, between you and me, between you and your body, between my body and your body.

Schedule here.

I’m working on creating a 5-class series, Self-Help for Jaw Pain, of online learning that I hope to have ready in September. It will be offered on Zoom.

Participants will learn life-long skills that will enable reducing current jaw pain and nipping it in the bud should it return. We’ll work on reducing co-factors that are common in those experiencing jaw pain. We’ll work on self-massage skills — on the shoulders, neck, and head, and inside the mouth.

The class will include a self-evaluation form and a private session with me on Zoom.

This first round will be small (8 people max) and discounted (still working on pricing), since online teaching is new to me.

If you have any interest, please get in touch. I’ll post more here as I progress.

Working on creating something new is very satisfying. I would not have done this if it weren’t for COVID. Teaching brings the possibility of reaching many more people with jaw issues who don’t live in this area, and I can share what I’ve learned since I began learning to work in the mouth in 2013.

I offer free 15-minute phone consultations that you can schedule here, and I call you at the appointed time. We can talk about anything. Bring your questions!

Other interesting things I’ve found to do while staying in more than ever. Get in touch if you’re interested in joining in.

  • I’ve been doing ecstatic dance on Zoom with Tribal Joy, Essential Soul Sessions, Source in Motion, and Step into Yes! (the latter for women only).
  • I’ve been doing Gyrokinesis on Zoom.
  • I’ve been doing yoga on Zoom.
  • I enjoyed the poet David Whyte’s recent online series. He’s offering another one in September.
  • I have gotten hooked on watching a British detective series starring Brenda Blethyn. It’s called Vera. There are 10 seasons, so lots to binge, although I just do one episode a day.

What are you up to? What inspires and entertains you?

Using energy hands for distance healing

When I started doing distance sessions at the beginning of the COVID lockdown in March, I would feel energy pouring out of my hands just as I would when doing bodywork with someone in my office, even though the receivers were now at a distance, sometimes in other states.

I didn’t know what to do with it at first with no body in front of me, but I definitely understood it was an indication of me being in a resourced state for healing.

In the 27-hour intensive course I just completed in Long Distance Healing, the instructors called this phenomenon “energy hands”.

Courtesy of namastest.net.

It’s fairly common for bodyworkers to experience this energy flowing out their hands, especially when the type of bodywork they practice includes deep listening with their hands, as do craniosacral therapy and Reiki, or if they are also trained in some types of yoga or meditation that cultivate this kind of awareness.

(By the way, distance healing is not craniosacral therapy, which always includes physical touch, but some craniosacral skills transfer over to distance healing.)

With my distance receivers, I started placing my energized hands on the area of the body the receiver had identified as wanting attention. Usually these identified areas are experiencing some form of disconnect from the healthier parts of the body.

Receivers would begin to feel sensations of change in that area: for example, the area would change shape, color, or temperature, pain would lessen or disappear, tension would soften, and sensations would become more diffuse, possibly move to another area, or even bounce around (“Hey, you’re finally looking at me! Yippee!”).

Although our bodies are constantly healing themselves below our level of awareness, in these sessions, receivers sense the healing as it occurs.

To be clear, I don’t heal you. Your own cellular intelligence is the healing power. I show up for you in a resourced state (built on years of yoga, meditation, and studies in how healing works), which your system can entrain to. I show up with presence, curiosity, and some suggestions, as an ally and a witness, with an intent (shared with you) for healing to take place, but no agenda about how that will happen, because it’s your body, your history, your awareness, and your healing.

I have not yet worked with anyone who did not experience a change for the better. I’ve worked with people trying their first energy healing session after Western medicine was unable to help, and I’ve worked with people who are deeply experienced in their own somatic awareness.

Courtesy of psychiclibrary.com.

We practiced with partners during the training, placing energy hands on our partner’s shoulders and having them say when they felt them and whether they wanted the touch to be more intense or diffuse, and then disconnecting and switching partners.

We also did this with the adrenals, which pump adrenaline and cortisol into our systems, since most of us are feeling some stress and anxiety because of COVID, the economy, our culture, the future, etc.

When my partner held my adrenals, after about a minute, I felt my autonomic nervous system down-regulate into a deeper parasympathetic (rest and digest) state.

That’s another benefit of working with energy hands. I can put my energy hands inside your body, not just on the skin.

I want to do more distance healing sessions. These sessions are collaborative, empowering, use a lot of dialogue, and are based on consent. I cannot do anything to you that you do not allow.

If you’re wondering what it’s about and would like to try it, I’m offering sessions on a donation basis for a limited time. Look at what it’s worth to you, what you can afford, and donate accordingly.

After half an hour, if you don’t think it’s doing anything for you, we’ll end the session without your donation.

Click here to schedule a session.

If you’d like to talk first, you can schedule a 15-minute phone consultation. Click here to schedule a phone consultation.

Distance healing

It’s so sweet to see how this new change in direction is turning out!

I’ve now worked with a couple of people whom I’ve never met. I wondered what it would be like.

Doing just one hands-on session with someone creates a relationship, a history, a shared experience, an energy field based on mutual intent for healing. The distance sessions I’ve done with people I know have worked out well, and I’ve attributed that to “Well, we’re familiar. We know each other. We’ve already established a field of trust.”

What would it be like to do a session, over the phone, with someone halfway across the U.S. whom I’ve never met?

I’m happy to report that, just as for hands-on sessions with people I know, these long distance sessions have also worked out well.

I listen with full attention. Sometimes I have a clue about what’s going on in their body-mind system, and sometimes I don’t. Either way, having the person relax and scan their body helps identify a location that wants attention.

From there, I ask questions that help the person engage in listening and communicating with that location.

I’ve recently encountered this quote:

Attention is the most basic form of love. Through it we bless and are blessed.

~ John Tarrant

That’s really the key, giving attention.

Sometimes people may be in pain, which is a signal that something needs attention.

Sometimes people feel stuck emotionally, for example, feeling anxiety before an important meeting.

Sometimes people simply need more resources to help them get through these extraordinary times.

Sometimes memories they’ve repressed emerge.

We work toward some kind of resolution, even if we don’t know what it is at first.

It could be feeling less pain.

It could be feeling some clarity about a situation.

It could be finding new images, even a vision, that gives someone courage and strength to move ahead.

It could be integrating traumatic memories from childhood with the resources of an adult.

However a distance session takes place, it’s always an adventure.

What people are saying about distance sessions

Since working with people over the phone is new for me, and I believe there’s a need during this pandemic, I hope to acquaint more people with what happens in energy sessions.

Every person and every distance session is different. There is no “one-technique-fits-all” way to work remotely. I work intuitively and integratively using my 60+ years of experience in life and experience healing my own issues and injuries; my training in craniosacral therapy, Reiki, Zero Balancing, massage, NLP, biodynamics, anatomy and physiology, and more; my practices in yoga, meditation, and movement; and understanding some basic principles of healing, from Western, Eastern, and shamanic traditions.

One very important principle is that the person I’m working and I create a shared field, in which we both have the intent to facilitate healing, whether it be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual.

When you are really connecting with someone, you’ve experienced this too. It can happen in person or on the phone. Distance doesn’t matter — the connection is energetic. Same with distance sessions.

This came from the first person I practiced on, back in March 2020 at the beginning of the Austin lockdown for COVID. She is someone I’ve worked with many times before who has a lot of inner resources.

We started on the phone, and after she got nice and relaxed, we hung up. I imagined my hands were connected to her body, and I could feel the energy as more (or more than!) when working in person!

I called her back when the session was over, and she told me pretty much what she wrote below. (Sometimes I stay on the phone the whole time.)

This is what she wrote about our phone session. It resembles a beautiful, empowering, cosmic dream.

Thank you so much, dear MaryAnn, for conducting the remote session on me as your test pilot yesterday !


Oh my flippin’ Goddess, it was… well adjectives fail to capture it all!


First I merged with an actively joyous dog running & playing and then 2-3 serenely content cats; I time traveled to all these crystal clear memories, even from my infancy or when I was a toddler… of deep belly laughing (or how an infant or toddler laughs with complete abandon & with their entire body)!


My energy body carried me back physically to my FAV Maui waterfall, Alelele, and all the myriad sounds from the waterfall, pool and stream morphed into the voices of friends laughing; then I saw friends, family… all sorts of moments of laughing together. I was laughing and then crying for a solid 20 minutes as hundreds of memories downloaded.


Near the end of the session, it seemed I felt rather than saw Mom – Amakua Mary- tapping her “magic crystal wand” and I was transported into my internal Sanctuary (created this over 25 yrs. ago as my inner healing, Visioning, energy integrating, clearing Hucha and more “Happy” place). Now I briefly saw the new addition, my Hall of Laughter!!


From the outside it looks like a faceted clear crystal… maybe as if quartz were cut and shaped into a biodome, about the size of a big RV… with no apparent doors or windows.


Suddenly, I simply knew and so thought the magic question and then…


Was inside floating within this Prism with rainbow light streaks everywhere and some diffuse wavy light beams like northern lights.
From the inside all those hundreds of facets acted as reflectors, yet not of light…


Inside the essence of every single moment of laughter I had EVER experienced – within me, generated by me, witnessed as others laughed, ones where groups of folks were all swept into spontaneously laughing together, my many laughing orgasms from ecstatic dance happenings – was simply there.


Within this magic space, I floated on streams of Laughter of every intensity and form … big, whole body laughs with and without tears to chuckles to giggles to tiny titterings!!!


I could hear the harmonics and FEEL the vibrations of each and ALL while I simply floated there… so relaxed, blissful… FULL, an embodiment of the sweetest JOY!

~ L.M., 3/22/2020